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The organic sector in UAE is on an upward trajectory, following stringent government regulations. However, the country is hungry for more organic products.

The ministry of Climate Change and Environment in the UAE recently issued an advisory stating it has banned imports of certain fruits and vegetables from countries including Egypt, Oman, Lebanon and Yemen. This is because produce from these countries has been found to contain pesticide residues in excess of permissible limits. The ban, which came into effect from 15 May 2017, reflects how food safety has become a core priority of the country’s food security system and is said to continue until necessary safety requirements are being met.

Retailers expand shelf-space for organic products

The newly introduced ban certainly reflects how organic food is becoming an area of increasing interest in the Middle East. The approximate retail space stocking organic products in UAE has increased by 60% over the last four years, according to a study conducted by Global Links. This trend is also replicating itself in other markets in the region, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.

Opportunity to promote the organic claim

Organic food is on the agenda of food and drink operators, but only a few are promoting the organic claim on-pack. According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), just 2% of food and drink launches in the UAE were positioned as organic in the year to October 2017. Instead, the majority of operators focus on wider natural and free-from claims: ‘no additives and preservatives’ is currently the most used ‘natural’ claim in the market, featuring on 16% of all product launches. Therefore, there is an opportunity to stand out from the crowd by promoting organic claims. Some major food brands are already doing so, such as Arla with its recent launch of Organic Milk in the UAE, as well as Heinz Organic Tomato Ketchup, which was also launched in the UAE.

arla-milk
Arla Organic Full Fat Milk is free from artificial hormones and preservatives, and described as 100% pure organic cow’s milk.
Organic-ketchup
Heinz Organic Tomato Ketchup contains no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or thickeners, and is formulated with tomatoes that have been grown, not made.

 

Currently, Israel and Egypt lead in organic-certified food and drink innovation in the Middle East but UAE’s share has grown in the last few years.

Use of the ‘organic’ claim on food and drink launches, by Middle Eastern countries, November 2016-October 2017:

Organic-share

 

The opportunity

Leading retailers have a role to play in raising consumer awareness of organic food and drink, and in continuing to increase the shelf space available for these products. This will encourage local food and drink producers to develop new organic lines as well as open the door for more imported organic brands from more developed organic markets.

Amrin Walji is a senior innovation analyst who specialises in analysing trends driving product innovation and development across the food and drink industry. She delivers insight on issues affecting the industry globally and has a special interest in the Middle East & Africa region.